Attorney General Conway says heroin bill will pass, slams FDA for its approval of Zohydro

03/13/2014 07:23 PM

Attorney General Jack Conway said he expects a bill aimed at combating heroin to pass the General Assembly this session but hopes it isn’t being delayed in the state House so it can be used as a bargaining chip.

“This is the type of legislation that shouldn’t be held up in order for horse trading at the end, and let’s be honest, that happens form time to time,” Conway said. “I mean there’s really no Democratic or Republican way to go after the Heroin problem. There is a common sense way to treat those who are addicted, educated those who don’t know enough to never get started in the first place and then do our job in law enforcement.” (at 2:15)

Conway joined Senate President Pro Tem Katie Stine, R-Southgate, and Representative John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, to introduce Senate Bill 5 . The legislation toughens penalties on heroin dealers. For instance, those found to have sold the drug to someone who fatally overdosed can be charged with homicide. It also increases treatment options for addicts and makes it easier for first responders and others with a prescription to get the drug Naloxone, which is used to counteract the effects of a heroin overdose.

Senator Stine expressed frustration on the inaction of the House on the legislation after the bill passed the Senate unanimously in January. Stine has urged the House to hurry up with the legislation because lives are at stake with this issue.

Conway didn’t criticize the House but said he hopes it gets a vote soon.

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Conway and others believe that the rise in heroin is an indirect result of the successful efforts of state lawmakers to stop the abuse of prescription drugs through legislation.

However, Conway has expressed fears that some of that work could be undone with the approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of a new painkiller called Zohydro. Conway says the drug is said to be much more powerful than other drugs.

Conway said he has worked with Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and others to urge the FDA to make sure the drug is made in a tamper-resistant form so it doesn’t lead to the problem .

“The problem we have with the pills is Oxycodone can be crushed and you get 12 hours of pain medication in 12 seconds. And it would create an incredible high and it was creating addicts and it was creating overdoses,” Conway said (at 3:30). “So with Zohydro, this is pure hydrocodone with no other analgesic, its five to 10 times more powerful than any other hydrocodone product on the market, their own advisory board voted 11-2 not to approve it until they put it in tamper resistant form that can’t be crushed or melted and yet the FDA went ahead and approved it and it makes absolutely no sense to me.”

This week, the U.S. FDA defended their approval of the drug saying while they recognize the strength of the prescription painkiller, they believe it is needed to serve an “important and unique” group of people. But after the interview with Conway on Wednesday, drug maker Purdue Pharma announce it had developed a tamper-proof version of that drug, as the Washington Post reported .

Conway said if the U.S. FDA insists on going through with putting Zohydro on the market despite the fight of attorneys general and members of Congress, then state officials must warn the medical community of what real dangers of the drug. The goal, Conway said, is to avoid what happened with other painkillers, like Oxycontin in the past.

Conway’s office is going to trial in August against Purdue Pharma alleging that the drug maker purposely misled doctors about the addictiveness of Oxycontin.

Jacqueline Pitts

Jacqueline Pitts is the producer of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. In addition to booking guests and pulling all of the information from the field together into a half-hour show, Jacqueline is also a regular contributor to “The Grind.” That’s a weekly segment with the cn|2 political staff to take a closer look at some of the most important, most interesting and often least talked about happenings in Kentucky politics. Jacqueline is from Nashville, but she’s a proud Western Kentucky University graduate. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqueline_cn2. She can be reached at 502-792-1114 or jacqueline.pitts@twcnews.com.

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